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wilt thou give me?' 'Anything you may ask.' 'I want nothing more, therefore pledge me'
"" That you will be my housebande."
" Ride thenne forth thy way," quod she.' In vain he offers lands, parks, houses,—she must have a husband. He wisely concludes that it is --
• Better to take her to his wife,
Or elles for to lose his life.' He also reflects that she probably will not live very long, and resolves to put her meanwhile —
Where that no man her shoulde know
Till she with death were overthrow, Having signified his assent, she tells him, that when he reaches his destination, he is to reply
. That alle women lievest would
Be sovereign of mannes love;' for as sovereign, she will have all her will, which is the beatitude of her desire. With this answer, she
he shall save himself, and he rides sadly on, for he is under oath to return for his bride. At the castle, in the presence of the summoned inmates, he names several things of his own invention, but none will do; and finally he gives the answer the old woman directed, which is declared to be the true one. Retracing his steps, a free but wretched man, he finds the old woman in the identical spot,
"The loathliest wight
[shrivelled Hangende down unto her chin,
[hanging Her lippes shrunken ben for age;
There was no grace in her visage.' She insists, however, upon the agreement, and, sick at heart, almost preferring death,
• In ragges as she was to-tore
He set her on his horse before.' riding through all the lanes and by-ways that no one may see him. At home he explains that he is obliged
• This beste wedde to his wife,
For elles he had lost his life.' Maids of honor are sent in, who renew her attire, all except her
matted and unsightly hair, which she will not allow them to
"But when she was fully array'd,
Then was she fouler unto see.'
• His body mighte well be there;
His hearte was in Purgatoire.'
that for to win or lose
[whether Or elles upon daye's light;
For he shall not have bothe two.'
"" I not what answer I shall give,
Right as ye wille, so will I.",
Thus, I am yours for evermo.
and earlier than the second. His metre is the octosyllabic, of four iambics. His rhythm is more smooth than melodious. He is touched only by French influence. There are extant about fifty French amatory sonnets composed by him in imitation of Provençal models. On the whole, like the dozen of translators who copy, compile, abridge, he constructs an encyclopædia, a textbook, in rhymed memoranda; but if excellence be comparative and all criticism relative to the age, we may hail this grave father of our poesy, whose verses, if destitute of creative touches, are stamped with the force of ethical reasoning. Amid triflers, he is earnest, with a deep-rooted idea that the minstrel should be a preacher. In his political admonitions, in his satire on the relaxed morals of the Pulpit, the Bench, the Bar, the Throne, and the Court, he sounds the deep tones of the patriot. He says:
I do not affect to touch the stars, or write the wonders of the poles; but rather, with the common human voice that is lamenting in this land, I write the ills I see. voice of my crying there will be nothing doubtful, for every man's knowledge will be its best interpreter.' Again:
Give me that there shall be less vice, and more virtue for my speaking.'
Only one of his three great works has been opened to the world, but the marble perpetuates what the press does not. In the Southwark Church of St. Saviour, his image lies extended on the tomb, with folded hands, in damask habit flowing to his feet; his head supported by three sculptured volumes and decked with a garland of roses, while three visionary virgins, Charity, Mercy, and Pity, solicit the prayer of the passer-by for the soul of the dreamless sleeper.
The fashions of man have their date and their termination. The fourteenth century is memorable as the era in which the romance-poetry of France, displaced in form, declines in substance. Even comedy cannot thrive on trifles. The literature that has not truth or seriousness must die. Life does not move through a perpetual May-day, nor is it invigorated in gorgeous idleness. Nourished on this poetry, another taste is springing up, which is to seek its subjects, not in France, but in the chaster Roman and Grecian lore. A new spirit pierces through, no longer the childish imitation of chivalrous life, but the crav
i Speculum is (Mirror of One Meditating), in h: or Clamantis (Voice of One (rying), in Latin; confessio Amantis, in English;- equally graced with Latin titles, though in three langnages.
ing for deep truths. English poetry, as distinguished on the one hand from the pedantry and barrenness of the romancers, and on the other from the impulsive cries of Beowulf, begins with Chaucer, the first skilled and conscious workman; who, ceasing to repeat, observes; whose characters, no longer a phantom procession, are living and distinct persons,— individualized and typical; and who, seeking material in the common forest of the middle ages, replants it in his own soil, to send out new shoots and enduring bloom.
Prose. Our early literature, as formerly observed, is almost exclusively one of poetry. Records, chronicles, books of instruction, of science, there are; but of prose, as the embodiment of high art, there is absolutely none. As we have cathedrals while the builders live in hovels, so, under the impulse of the imaginative sentiment, we have poetry before we have prose, which passes into
pure literature only when the views of men have settled down to sober truth, and art is so diffused as to give grace and expression to things familiar and homely.
Divines and philosophers, mathematicians and scientists, write in Latin. The prose works in English have an archaic and moral rather than an artistic interest. Mandeville and Wycliffe the one in his travels, the other in his translations of the Bible are, in the mixed vernacular, the first reapers on the margin of the great future of English prose.
History. In this mixed state of glory clouded with barbarism, there is, there can be, no annalist deserving the name of historian. The clironiclers have the usual aptitude for credence, unastonished at astonishing events, credulous and happy by constitution and contagion. They begin, as usual, ab initio, with the Conquest, and reach home, across chasms supplied by an ever-ready fancy. The narrative grows like a rolling snowball, gathering whatever lies in its path, fact or legend, appropriate or inappropriate. The readers or hearers are as well prepared to believe as the writers are prompt to collate. hence the first peer' of the realm will be proud of deriving his pedigree from a fabulous knight in a romantic genealogy.
Of plumed knights and penitential saints, of warring kings
A hundred years
1 Duke of Buckingham.
and feasting nobles, of furious and raving figures, we have a plenty; but of history that will trace the ideal tendencies of the age, that will exhibit the world of ideas, the life of the people as a drama in which good and evil fight their everlasting battle,- of history in which calmness of insight exists with intensity of feeling, there is yet no prophecy.
Philosophy.—This consists, for the most part, in ringing changes on the syllogism,
• Barbara, Celarent, Darii, Ferio,
Cesare, Camestres, Festino, Baroko,' ctc.; circulating in endless vortices; creating, swallowing,— itself. Inductions, corollaries, dilemmas, logical diagrams, cast wonderful horoscopes, but end — where perhaps all metaphysical speculation ends, as to the stolen jewel of our search — in nothingness.
The old dispute, long dormant, was now revived with a whiteheat of disputation. The Realists maintained that universal ideas or essences belonged to the class of real things, either eternally impressed upon matter or eternally existent in the Divine Mind as the models of created objects; while the Nominalists held that these pretended universals had neither form nor essence, but were merely modes of conception, existing solely in and for the mind,- only individuals are real.
Of Nominalism, Occam' was now the eminent spokesman. The universal, he argues, exists in the mind, not substantially, but as a representation; while outwardly it is only a word, or in general a sign, of whatever kind, representing conventionally several objects. Only an a posteriori proof of the being of God, and that not a rigorous one, is possible. As for the rest, the articles of faith' have not even the advantage of probability for the wise, and especially for those who trust to the natural reason. Here only the authority of the Bible and Christian tradition should be accepted. Theological doctrines are not demonstrable, yet the will to believe the indemonstrable is meritorious. Thus reason and faith are antagonized, the critical method rises to an independent rank, and, with the coöperation of other influences tending in the same direction, the way is prepared for an inductive investigation of external nature and psychical phenomena.
A Franciscan of the severe order, and a pupil of Duns Scotus; born in the county of Surrey, died April 7, 1317.